It’s hard to believe, but the COVID-19 pandemic has entered its second year.
A lot of factors have had an effect on the mental health of people in our state: illness, job loss, the weather, and much more.
Like so many others the Cutler Family has been trying to navigate work, family and school in the middle of a pandemic.
“The last month I really noticed the seasonal affective issues picking up,” said Josh Cutler who is a local social worker who has struggled with depression.
Cutler’s experience with the illness ultimately lead him to a career helping others.
According the Washington State Department of Health, 3.4 million Washingtonians are experiencing consistent symptoms of depression and anxiety right now.
“So we’re going up around the 45 percent mark of the population and that’s scary,” said Dr. Kira Mauseth who is a clinical psychologist and senior instructor at Seattle University.
The devastation of the pandemic has taken a toll –thousands of deaths, economic strife, social isolation and so much more.
But what is the distinction between sadness and depression?
“I think you’ve got to think about three things: how long has it been going on, how severe it is, and how big of a problem it presents for you,” said Dr. Mylien Duong who is clinical psychologist and senior scientific researcher at the Committee for Children.
Depression is best defined by feeling down for more days than not during a two-week period.
Duong said lookout for functional impairment.
“If you are irritable, fighting with your family all the time, too tired to get out of bed or you have problems concentrating that you’re not getting any work done and you’re missing deadlines and getting into trouble at work – these are all sign to seek professional help” Duong said.
There are resources available and it’s okay to ask for help.
“Being a professional and reaching out for professional help myself has been really important. I noticed it was a good time when I was feeling overwhelmed with the darkness, the winter, so I reached out to my own professional care team and I recognize that’s okay,” said Cutler.
There is hope on the horizon with vaccine rollout. Experts recommend taking it one day at a time.
“It just requires slow and steady progress,” Mauset said.
Duong said if you are concerned about a loved one experiencing mental illness the best thing to do is just ask them directly.
In some cases doctors said medication and counseling can be avoided with daily exercise, eating well, proper sleep, going outdoors and connect with family even if it means virtually.
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